This afternoon Scott Christensen was at the DAM. The price of the lecture was museum entrance, so that was a bargain. I have a membership. I had no idea going in what to expect, but it turned out he was going to try and answer the Question: What makes a good painting good? To try and answer the question, we first watched a film from the Lincoln Center of a "lesson" in music using Bach's Italian Concerto. We learned that Bach transcribed Vivaldi's violin concertos to learn "to think musically." (I would liken this to an artist copying from a master's painting in an art museum) And through the Italian Concerto, which was written for a harpsichord only (concertos were typically written for a solo with an orchestra) we learned how Bach did it using the left hand as the orchestra and the right for the soloist; truly fascinating. And a lot of the same terms that were used in describing Bach’s method in music also work for art, i.e. composition, variety, chaos, relationships, order, repetition, modulation, balance, unity and variety. I.e. Too much repetition leads to boredom and too much variety leads to chaos. That subtle shifts are needed; that the difference between great and average is infinitesimal and yet very great indeed. That Bach created tension and variety without being chaotic. He simplified to bring order out of chaos. This ties in to what Kevin seems to be hammering into me, which is to simplify!
Scott Said there are three "p's"...Preparing, i.e. learn drawing, composition, values, tones, relationships (the broken record for aspiring artists); Practice, i.e. do lots of studies and don't think about painting (where have I heard this before, maybe Mark Daily?) and Painting ie where the preparing and the practice come together.
A few things that Scott mentioned that resonated with me in particular were 1. That he had just been to an exhibit of John William Waterhouse paintings. That a few things struck him as very interesting indeed. One was how you could see the strokes of how often Waterhouse had reworked or changed an area to get it to work the way he wanted (I LOVE this as it is always heartening to know how the masters struggle just like we all do) and that out of this whole exhibit, 5 paintings kept drawing him in. That to him, a painting that stayed with someone or kept bringing them back, was a “good” painting.
2. That we have all “seen” a great painting waiting to happen while driving. You stop, you go back, and the scene is gone. The thing is, you saw it at “a glance” while you are driving, but you stop and everything is just there. The scene is overwhelming and the light isn’t what you “saw” at all. So the point is we need to trick the brain and glimpse, not over observe, while painting outdoors.
And I thank Marie for inviting me to join her today, not only was it a good time, and new ways to look at "composing" but lots of artist friends were there as well.